John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones (6 July 1747 – 18 July 1792) was a Scottish American sailor and the United States' first well-known naval fighter in the American Revolutionary War. Although he made many friends and enemies among America's political elites, his actions in British waters during the Revolution earned him an international reputation which persists to this day. As such, he is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the American Navy" (an epithet he shares with John Barry). He later served in the Imperial Russian Navy, subsequently obtaining the rank of rear admiral.
- A navy is essentially and necessarily aristocratic. True as may be the political principles for which we are now contending they can never be practically applied or even admitted on board ship, out of port, or off soundings. This may seem a hardship, but it is nevertheless the simplest of truths. Whilst the ships sent forth by the Congress may and must fight for the principles of human rights and republican freedom, the ships themselves must be ruled and commanded at sea under a system of absolute despotism.
- Letter to the Naval Committee of Congress (14 September 1775).
- I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way.
- Letter to Le Ray de Chaumont (16 November 1778), as quoted in The Naval History of the United States (1890) by Willis John Abbot, p. 82
- I have not yet begun to fight!
- His famous response, in the early phase of the Battle of Flamborough Head, (23 September 1779) to an inquiry by his opponent (Captain Richard Pearson of the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis) as to whether he was surrendering his ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, as recounted in the reminiscences of Jones's First Lieutenant, Richard Dale, as published in The Life and Character of John Paul Jones, a Captain in the United States Navy (1825) by John Henry Sherburne:
- ...the Bon Homme Richard, having head way, ran her bows into the stern of the Serapis. We had remained in this situation but a few minutes when we were again hailed by the Serapis, "Has your ship struck?" To which Captain Jones answered, "I have not yet begun to fight!"
- In Naval teminology to "strike the colours" means to haul down the ship's flag to signify surrender, but here the use of the ship as subject of the sentence may imply a pun on the non-naval use of "struck".
- I may sink, but I'll be damned if I strike!
- His much less famous response, in the late phase of the Battle of Flamborough Head, 23 September 1779, to an inquiry by his opponent (Captain Richard Pearson of the Royal Navy ship HMS Serapis) as to whether he was surrendering his ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, which was by this time very seriously damaged.
- This was what some of his sailors, reported in British newspapers at the time, claimed he had said; Jones's official report merely stated that he had answered "in the most determined negative".
- Where men of fine feeling are concerned there is seldom misunderstanding.
- Letter from Jones to the Marquis de Lafayette, (1 May 1779).
Quotes about Jones
- The future naval officers, who live within these walls, will find in the career of the man whose life we this day celebrate, not merely a subject for admiration and respect, but an object lesson to be taken into their innermost hearts. . . . Every officer . . . should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows.